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  1. #1
    Fatties Fit Fine carless's Avatar
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    Kunstler: Oil Economy

    America consumes one-quarter of the world's daily production of 84 million barrels of oil. More than half of our share is burned in cars and trucks. In fact, our economy now amounts to little more than running 200 million motor vehicles around the suburban metroplexes in the service of ever more slapped-together McHousing developments, big box stores, and fried chicken huts. That's our economy. That's all we do anymore.
    Taken from:
    http://www.kunstler.com/mags_diary14.html
    I agree, do you?

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    I agree but not with his pro-war views. Read his blog if you don't believe me, and other writers have been taking him to task for his pro-war anti-arab agenda. However, there are lot of peak-oil guys out there, Heinberg who's excellent, deffeyes, stanton, savinar, tons of them. Life After The Oil Crash is a good site, and there are others too.

    The cheap oil fiesta's been fun for 100 years, but now the punch bowl is getting low, the chips are running out, and the partygoers are starting to get sober and cranky, it's not going to be pretty being in that milieu as it gets down to a fight to the death over the last pickle or stuffed olive.

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    I don't agree with the comment about our economy - it is far more than that, but I do agree that it is WAY too dependent on oil. I also agree with a lot of what he says about why we are in the Middle East (to secure the remaining large oil reserves) and the coming economic decline. Since the economy and our lifestyle is built on the premise of cheap oil, as that era ends, painful changes are inevitable. I like his blog.
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by carless
    America consumes one-quarter of the world's daily production of 84 million barrels of oil. More than half of our share is burned in cars and trucks. In fact, our economy now amounts to little more than running 200 million motor vehicles around the suburban metroplexes in the service of ever more slapped-together McHousing developments, big box stores, and fried chicken huts. That's our economy. That's all we do anymore.
    I spent a pleasant evening reading more of Kunstler's blog. The quotation chosen by the original poster summarizes Kunstler's position quite well. I think it's a fair assessment of our current situation. We don't manufacture much in the U.S. anymore. Kunstler stated that 70% of our economy is now from retailing. If that's true, it's startling and not anything to inspire confidence in our economic future.

    What will we have that we can trade with foreign suppliers if we don't manufacture anything to export? I hear people talk about "the service economy" as if that's a good thing. What services, exactly, can we trade for oil? I guess we're good at advertising and making movies. Agriculture, too. Is there much else?

    I wonder if China and the oil producing countries are interested in buying lots of prestigious real estate in the U.S. That's what Japan did when they were flying high in the 80's. Then they went bust. We got a lot of those properties back, and we got to keep the recycled dollars too. It might be different if our foreign creditors bought up all our businesses and natural resources. We would technically remain a sovereign nation, but most Americans would be getting their assignments from the home offices in China or Saudi Arabia...

    In the past, I heard talk that the U.S. might retain dominance in key technology areas such as design, engineering, research and development. That seems kind of far fetched to me now. In most U.S. industries those functions have been the target of intense budget cutting for almost a generation. There's hardly anything left.

    So, yes, I agree with Kunstler's main point in the above quotation. I think he goes out on a limb making short term predictions, though. Some long term negative trends are definitely in place. However, there will be major ups and downs along the way. The trends may undermine our system for years and years, making it more brittle and vulnerable. But a visible collapse might be postponed for a very long time. That is what happened with the old Soviet Union. It collapsed suddenly. No one was expecting it. In retrospect, their system simply fell down like a tree that had been rotting inside for many years.
    Last edited by Platy; 08-27-05 at 08:18 AM. Reason: Edited for grammar

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Platy
    I spent a pleasant evening reading more of Kunstler's blog.
    If you enjoyed the blog, consider buying borrowing his books "The Geography of Nowhere" and "Home from Nowhere." While "The Long Emergency" has probably brought Kunstler more notoriety than his other non-fiction books, I found the "Nowhere" books to be very ejoyable and instructive, especially in understanding how our landscape became so car-centric and what the real cost has been (and not just in economic terms).

    I joined the Kunstler Kult in 2000, when on a whim I went to hear him lecture. Since then I've read all his non-fiction books and attended a second lecture. I certainly don't agree with all of his views, but listening to him speak and then reading "The Geography of Nowhere" provided a backstory, so to speak, that explained a lot of things I had observed and wondered about.

  6. #6
    Immoderator KrisPistofferson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lilHinault
    I agree but not with his pro-war views. Read his blog if you don't believe me, and other writers have been taking him to task for his pro-war anti-arab agenda. However, there are lot of peak-oil guys out there, Heinberg who's excellent, deffeyes, stanton, savinar, tons of them. Life After The Oil Crash is a good site, and there are others too.

    The cheap oil fiesta's been fun for 100 years, but now the punch bowl is getting low, the chips are running out, and the partygoers are starting to get sober and cranky, it's not going to be pretty being in that milieu as it gets down to a fight to the death over the last pickle or stuffed olive.
    I've been a fan of Kunstler's for a while now, and haven't read anything by him I've construed as pro-war or anti-Arab. Can you post a link to an example of this? Not arguing with you, just curious.
    Quote Originally Posted by Bikeforums
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    I just read the entire blog, and I agree with almost everything he wrote. His rational for the Iraq war is basically we have 150,000 troops on the ground indefinatly to ensure we get oil.

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    Fatties Fit Fine carless's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by krispistoferson
    I've been a fan of Kunstler's for a while now, and haven't read anything by him I've construed as pro-war or anti-Arab. Can you post a link to an example of this? Not arguing with you, just curious.
    I second that. I have read what he believes the real danger of suburbia is: A soldier is going to decide that muffler shops and fast food near the highway is no longer worth defending. He said it better, I've read his books, excellent, especially Nowhere.

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    Quote Originally Posted by krispistoferson
    I've been a fan of Kunstler's for a while now, and haven't read anything by him I've construed as pro-war or anti-Arab. Can you post a link to an example of this? Not arguing with you, just curious.
    ....I'm still interested in reading where J.H. Kuntsizzle comes off as pro-war or anti-Arab.

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    Senior Member pedex's Avatar
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    Ive read alot of his writings, not sure If I think he's pro-war or not, more like he realizes that is the US's SOP way of dealing with it,afterall, much of the foreign policy with respect to mid east countries and oil was started long long ago, it isnt new. The US has troops and bases in 135 out of 192 countries, its been at war for more than 50 years. This could easily migrate to the P&R forum, but, weve also got another problem besides being tied to a system that has no future, and thats the military industrial complex, its a sizable chunk of the economy, and it has the same fate, it runs on oil. The federal and state governments are the biggest single employers in the country, by quite a bit. When things start getting real bad we are likely to end up in a situation where even more people turn to govt secure jobs, only so many can ride on the govt coat tails. in the end, oil scarcity will likely be what fixes alot of our problems if we manage to get thru the beginnings of it without too many problems.

    One sidenote and observation that Ive been thinking long and hard about. Many seem to think that guys like me, the peasants in society will take alot of this on the chin and maybe have a really rough time, im not so sure about that. Guys like me are used to working hard, mostly manual labor, we arent afraid of hard work, been doing it my whole life. When the energy gets real scarce it will create jobs to replace the energy deficit. Those that are in cushy jobs created by the energy gluttony and knowlegde walls weve put up will get crushed, they will have to find other means. For example, as a messenger I deal with all sorts or little service companies that work as a middleman tween citizens and govt, they essentially fill out paperwork for enormous fees that are highly overvalued and priced, not only will the demand for this drop, but many will do it themselves instead. The govt itself will have difficulty providing the services to begin with, they already are, I see that all the time.

    Nothing about our McWorld is ready for contraction, its all gonna have to change.

  11. #11
    Immoderator KrisPistofferson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pedex
    One sidenote and observation that Ive been thinking long and hard about. Many seem to think that guys like me, the peasants in society will take alot of this on the chin and maybe have a really rough time, im not so sure about that. Guys like me are used to working hard, mostly manual labor, we arent afraid of hard work, been doing it my whole life.
    Quote Originally Posted by Bikeforums
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  12. #12
    Fatties Fit Fine carless's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ___
    ....I'm still interested in reading where J.H. Kuntsizzle comes off as pro-war or anti-Arab.
    I have yet to read it either. Who is the little album pic: Coltrane?
    "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win."
    -- Mahatma Gandhi

  13. #13
    Dare to be weird!
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    Okay, here's my plan for Painless Peak Oil!

    First, let's simply redefine the SUV. With enough marketing and some inspired cosmetic design we can get people to think of tiny little fuel efficient vehicles as the big honkin' SUVs they crave. I think this will happen very shortly, maybe even by the next model year.

    Then we get more people to work in information type jobs so they can telecommute. As pedex pointed out, lots of folks have jobs where they don't really create urgently needed products or services. Macroeconomically, they might just as well be working on each others' web pages and stuff like that. Anyway, if telecommuting becomes the fashion, a lot of commuter driving could simply vanish. This may start happening all by itself, too. I just started on a new contract job two weeks ago and I was surprised to find out that the only option the employer offered was telecommuting.

    Then we start touting the supreme pleasure and carefree convenience of condo living in the city. No more running yourself ragged in those crummy old suburbs. No more lawn mowing and pool maintenance. McMansions? That's soooo last year! Prices will go sky high, get invested while you still can, etc. etc.

    In the U.S. I think the dominant consumer lifestyle is all about marketing. Car culture has been the thing for a long time because it's been highly marketed. (Don't believe me? Dust off yer TV, plug it in and watch it for a while, you'll see what I mean.) If car culture becomes impractical for the majority of people, another lifestyle will be heavily marketed and the conformist majority will follow right along. It will work because for the foreseeable future we will still be rich enough that only about 25% of our economy needs to be reality-based. (That's my own guess, and it may be generous.) The other 75% of our economy is pure arbitrary hokum. We can redefine it any way we want, when we get to the point where enough people agree to want the same thing.

    We may see a lot more people on bikes, too, if we properly redefine "bike" to include scooters, electric bikes, motorcycles, recumbents with small engines, segways, etc. etc. All it will take is the right celebrities on scooters. (Is it really true that they are making Cadillac and Hummer bicycles now? Good heavens, why? Do they know something the rest of us don't?)

    Marketing makes no sense to me. Grumpy old geezers aren't exactly in their target demographic. Marketing sure seems to work with the majority of people, though.

    As someone once said, you can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, and that's usually sufficient.

  14. #14
    Chicago Cyclist ViciousCycle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Platy
    Okay, here's my plan for Painless Peak Oil!
    ....
    Then we get more people to work in information type jobs so they can telecommute. As pedex pointed out, lots of folks have jobs where they don't really create urgently needed products or services. ... Anyway, if telecommuting becomes the fashion, a lot of commuter driving could simply vanish.
    In a post-peak-fossil fuel economy, there may be less of a need for information technology work and a greater need for more down-to-earth work. I've been in information technology for over a decade, and a lot of it has been for corporations that have been able to easily operate on a national or global scale due to cheap fossil fuels. The lack of cheap fossil fuels may change the equation considerably. Instead of relying on corporations to bring us food from half way around the world, we may find that we need to do a lot more food production in the areas where we live. A lot of us have become used to having highly abstract job skills, including those of us in information technology. In the future, we might arrive at a day where we need job skills that are less abstract and more concrete.

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    There are several excellent books for any of you interested in the macroeconomic issues of energy, but have no formal training in economics. Two are Thomas Sowell's books, _Basic Economics_ and _Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One_.


    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...glance&s=books

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...glance&s=books

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    Senior Member pedex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ViciousCycle
    In a post-peak-fossil fuel economy, there may be less of a need for information technology work and a greater need for more down-to-earth work. I've been in information technology for over a decade, and a lot of it has been for corporations that have been able to easily operate on a national or global scale due to cheap fossil fuels. The lack of cheap fossil fuels may change the equation considerably. Instead of relying on corporations to bring us food from half way around the world, we may find that we need to do a lot more food production in the areas where we live. A lot of us have become used to having highly abstract job skills, including those of us in information technology. In the future, we might arrive at a day where we need job skills that are less abstract and more concrete.
    Absolutely, that is going to be a part of it. Growing food will get very local, so will almost everything else. The tipping point will be based on shipping costs and raw materials. Third world countries are gonna have huge problems with a lack of fertlizer due to natural gas depletion, the US should be ok with that, it has enough arable land versus population to grow enough food with alot less chemical inputs. If anyone wants a glimpse of what we are facing, look at Cuba, not their government, but their new found low petroleum lifestyle theyve been forced to adopt, its gotten like ZERO press here in the US, but its been going on for almost a decade. One serious disadvantage we will be facing is capitalism and democracy, sounds weird but its very true. Free markets and democracy do not handle shortages very well, they typically dont handle any major crisis of this nature well. It takes too long for policies to get implemented and its incredibly inefficient, too much corruption and too many middlemen. Far less people are going to be able to do what the typical CEO does now, and that means fewer will be able to make 2000 times what the lowest paid worker makes just to be on the board of directors. One of my biggest concerns is feudalism, it could easily come back. If we experience a really big break down and a big financial collapse, the ruling class will literally inherit ownership of everything as things stand now, provided the country stays in one big piece. Todays suburbs are gonna be tomorrows slums and wasteland.

  17. #17
    Badger Biker ctyler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by krispistoferson
    I've been a fan of Kunstler's for a while now, and haven't read anything by him I've construed as pro-war or anti-Arab. Can you post a link to an example of this? Not arguing with you, just curious.
    Here's another person who has not read anything pro-war or anti-Arab. I think it's just a bunch of BS put out by people who disagree with his observations about our culture and his views on peak oil.

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    I'm a big Kunstler fan, and I am not pro-war. But I do recall that in The Long Emergency, Kunstler stated that he thought the current war had justification. I don't remember where he said it exactly, and we're moving so the book is packed--but really, he said it. I was kinda bummed.

    I also wondered, when I read it, if he was very carefully shaping his views so as to avoid being tagged as a wing-nut.

    I agree that JHK gets a little paranoid in some of his extrapolations. I enjoyed the Long Emergency very much, and I agree that his two previous books are excellent background.

    If you read Kunstler's blog, be sure and check out his Eyesore of the Month section--you'll laugh your bike shorts off.

    Folks interested in learning more about the kind of revolution that Pedex is talking about should check out www.carlaemery.com and read her book, The Encyclopedia of Country Living.

    Interesting thread folks!

    best

    Patrick

  19. #19
    Chicago Cyclist ViciousCycle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by weed eater
    I'm a big Kunstler fan, and I am not pro-war. But I do recall that in The Long Emergency, Kunstler stated that he thought the current war had justification. I don't remember where he said it exactly
    Of the 7 chapters in The Long Emergency, only chapter 3, "Geopolitics and the Global Oil Peak" talks about the Middle East and about Iraq -- and the chapter doesn't seem to entirely fit with the ideas expressed in the rest of the book. One can easily read the whole book and just skip this chapter. (My favorite chapter is chapter 7, "Living in the Long Emergency", where he speculates on how humans will find ways to adapt themselves to living in a world with less available energy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by carless
    I have yet to read it either. Who is the little album pic: Coltrane?
    The one and only.


    Quote Originally Posted by ViciousCycle
    In a post-peak-fossil fuel economy, there may be less of a need for information technology work and a greater need for more down-to-earth work. I've been in information technology for over a decade, and a lot of it has been for corporations that have been able to easily operate on a national or global scale due to cheap fossil fuels. The lack of cheap fossil fuels may change the equation considerably. Instead of relying on corporations to bring us food from half way around the world, we may find that we need to do a lot more food production in the areas where we live. A lot of us have become used to having highly abstract job skills, including those of us in information technology. In the future, we might arrive at a day where we need job skills that are less abstract and more concrete.
    Hey, wait a second -- I kinda like moving useless amounts of data around in circles while dodging middle management.
    Last edited by ___; 10-16-05 at 08:17 PM.

  21. #21
    CVB
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    Kunstler's apparent "pro-war" stance is simply pragmatic - if we aren't willing to give up the oil-based economy, we better get used to going to war. We pick. His biggest beef in his blog is with those who will drive an SUV (or just about any other car) to an anti-war rally but won't go to city hall to protest the latest sprawling subdivision or big-box store, which is really the reason we're going to war.

    As far as switching careers to prepare for post-peak economics, there's a lot more to be done. Small farms, nearly nonexistent in most of the country now, will be critical to survival. Local production of nearly everything will be necessary, because we won't be able to afford the shipping costs. And then there are the macroeconomic ramifications of US treasury debt losing its value on the world market, and on and on. I love bikes and would love for everyone who is able to ride one to work, but simply changing our mode of commuting is not going to do it.

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    Chicago Cyclist ViciousCycle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CVB
    Kunstler's apparent "pro-war" stance is simply pragmatic - if we aren't willing to give up the oil-based economy, we better get used to going to war. We pick.
    In most of his book, Kunstler takes the stance of "The oil-based economy as we know it is soon to be over." In the chapter that seemed to have pro-war sentiments, the stance was, "We need to do such-and-such, or the oil-based economy as we know it is soon to be over."

    A couple of years ago, an anti-war politician spoke of introducing a bill for a draft that would offer no exemptions. So an anti-war message was conveyed in words that appeared on the surface to be pro-war. Whether or not Kunstler intended to do something like this in his writing, I do know the apparent contradictions in the book have caused the book to linger in my mind.

  23. #23
    Fatties Fit Fine carless's Avatar
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    I wrote to Mr Kunstler about this thread/ his views and he wrote back:

    "My views on the war are more complicated than "pro-war."

    I'll have to reread and mull that over. In case you missed the link to his site:
    http://www.kunstler.com/index.html

    -this page took one minute and fifteen seconds to load, I'll try later.
    "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win."
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  24. #24
    Immoderator KrisPistofferson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carless
    I wrote to Mr Kunstler about this thread/ his views and he wrote back:

    "My views on the war are more complicated than "pro-war."

    I'll have to reread and mull that over. In case you missed the link to his site:
    http://www.kunstler.com/index.html

    -this page took one minute and fifteen seconds to load, I'll try later.
    Um, is that all he wrote?
    Quote Originally Posted by Bikeforums
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    Local food is not as necessary as he makes it seem.

    With the restoration of electric freight railways, and the addition of considerable track-mileage to the existing railroad network, local food is not critical.

    I am, however, of the opinion that more local production is not a bad idea, nevertheless.

    In the Soviet Union, college students spent their summer months as farm laborers. They benefited the country, built comradery, and had to do actual hands-on work. It was hard, but worthwile. (my father and grandfather attest to this). Such a system could be wise again. Use the summer farm labor to cover tuition, instead of outright subsidizing education...

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